Date of Award

5-6-2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Criminology

First Advisor

Jennifer J. Roberts, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Timothy Austin, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Erika Davis Frenzel, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

John Lewis, Ph.D.

Abstract

Although incidents of child abuse and neglect are largely handled through child protection services agencies and juvenile dependency courts, criminal justice agencies have the authority and responsibility to intervene in cases of criminal child maltreatment (Brown & Riley, 1986). The magnitude and prevalence of child maltreatment within the United States is difficult to determine as no data system captures all forms of known maltreatment across various agencies who investigate abuse and neglect. However, national statistics reflect that neglect is the most frequent form of child maltreatment reported to and substantiated by CPS. However, it is the form of maltreatment least likely to receive criminal justice attention (Cross et al., 2005; Tjaden & Anhalt, 1994). The purpose of this study is to assess the influence of defendant, victim and case characteristics on four judicial decision making points (i.e., bail, disposition, sentence and sentence length) specific to cases involving forms of criminal child neglect. In order to more fully examine this topic area, the chosen methodology was developed under the tenets of focal concerns perspective, which has been previously utilized to explain various judicial decision making processes. This study analyzed data collected from prosecutorial files in the Marion County, Oregon, District Attorney’s Office for all cases involving arrests by The City of Salem, Oregon Police Department for Criminal Mistreatment I/II, Endangering the Welfare of a Minor and Child Neglect I/ II during 2006 and 2007. The study’s findings suggest that the indicators of focal concerns perspective did not uniformly predict the bail, disposition, sentence and sentence length decisions for cases of criminal child neglect. The findings indicate that only a minimal number of variables were actually explaining any of the variance. This alone suggested little support for focal concerns perspective. Consistent with existing research on focal concerns perspective this study however indicated that legal factors were the strongest correlates of the case processing decisions. However it may be that judicial concerns specific to crimes against children are unusual compared to other forms of criminality. Focal concerns perspective simply may not address these unique considerations.

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